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Straight Edge - Punk rock goes straight
November 4, 2004 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Straight Edge - Punk rock goes straight: no drugs, no drink, no sex, no meat.
30 minute audio documentary and flash site on an underground music movement.
Minor Threat, Youth of Today, Seven Seconds, Gorilla Biscuits all X'ed it out.
posted by putzface_dickman (69 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Leave it to the Straight Edge to use a flash interface. Gah, I remember these guys from more than a decade ago. I realize that individuals are not always representative of a group, but the straights I knew where glorified thugs. They'd go to shows and beat down anyone who they felt like. They were considered to be a dangerous youth gang in the punk scene, I hope they are different now.

Some good bands though.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:03 PM on November 4, 2004

Punk rock goes straight: no drugs, no drink, no sex, no meat.

Great. Punk puritans.

Why is this a good idea?
posted by jonmc at 12:09 PM on November 4, 2004

You forgot everyone's favorite straight edge band-Crucial Youth and their legendary youth brush.
posted by toddst at 12:09 PM on November 4, 2004

Dharma Punx
posted by homunculus at 12:14 PM on November 4, 2004

Gah, I remember these guys from more than a decade ago.

Me too. Remember the S/E graffitti all over during the '80s and '90s? I don't recall them being vegetarians, though.
posted by Shane at 12:21 PM on November 4, 2004

sXe for life. Nailed to the cross! XXX
posted by Quartermass at 12:25 PM on November 4, 2004

Almost all the straight edge kids I knew back in the '80s and '90s are no longer straight edge (duh!) and actually turned out fairly normal (by my standards). An interesting phase, nonetheless.
posted by shoepal at 12:26 PM on November 4, 2004

jonmc: I am not an advocate but merely an observer.

This goes back to '83 or so. Satin bomber jacket wearing straightedge kids would come from out in the sticks to shows in my city in the late 80s. The city kids were harder to pick out. They'd sometimes mix it up with the skinheads, but were usually non-violent.

shane: that should be sXe. The X is the mark they'd put on their hands voluntarily showing that they bar staff could serve them no alcohol.

I found this site when I made this comment. Thought it deserved an FPP. The documentary is a good listen.
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:29 PM on November 4, 2004

god i so can't stand straight edge. moral punks!? bah! Thankfully there weren't any of them in Toronto when I was growing up.
posted by grimley at 12:30 PM on November 4, 2004

the straights I knew where glorified thugs

i grew up with a lot of them. it was the time - '80s high school. none of ones i knew were violent. most were very committed to vegetarianism, and some still are. from what i remember, there wasn't a (serious) prescription against sex.

Punk rock goes straight: no drugs, no drink, no sex, no meat.

Great. Punk puritans.

you could also say "Punk buddhists" - but, again, what's the point?

on preview: which do you prefer: moral punks, immoral punks, or amoral punks?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:32 PM on November 4, 2004

kind of a leap to make the automatic assumption that abstinent=moral, isn't it?

I've just never been fond of doctrinaire people, and that's how this strikes me. I've always been a libertarian, different strokes type of guy and so were most punks I've known. This just kind of goes against the grain of that.
posted by jonmc at 12:35 PM on November 4, 2004

I once went to a straight edge potluck here in Montreal. I was the only person drinking, and I had to go get my own corkscrew (bad form as a host). Then, as I was telling some story, I dropped my plastic cup, and spilled some wine. I continued the story while wiping it up and as I stood, someone said, "You know, if you were straightedge, that wouldn't have happened."

Yeah, no shit, you fucking genius. I wouldn't have had the wine in my hand in the first place.
posted by jon_kill at 12:42 PM on November 4, 2004

is this news? the straight-edge argument is over 20 years old. Am I dating myself? I was into these bands in 7th and 8th grade. And I'm 32 now.

why is this interesting?
posted by glenwood at 12:44 PM on November 4, 2004

i'm for the amoral variety. and true jonmc, it is a bit of a leap but the ones that I have run into since my youth seem to be a little rabid and fundie to me. but minor threat were great, and there is this to look for in the record shop tonight.
posted by grimley at 12:44 PM on November 4, 2004

And what the fuck is wrong with fucking? Jesus.
posted by jon_kill at 12:45 PM on November 4, 2004

nothing's wrong with fucking. punk is about shocking people. by '82 not drinking and fucking, as a punk rocker, was pretty shocking. and it's a far cry from the weirdo straight edge thing that exists today.

weird. minor threat randomly showing up on metafilter twice in one day...
posted by glenwood at 12:46 PM on November 4, 2004

These days it seems like a lot of the new sXe bands are Christian straight edge. I don't really understand the appeal, but as long as they aren't grabbing my cigarettes out of my mouth and snapping them, I can't complain.

Obligatory Jud Jud links.
posted by cmonkey at 12:51 PM on November 4, 2004

punk is about shocking people.

No it's not. If punk was simply about inducing reactions in people, I wouldn't have found it as interesting as I do.
posted by jonmc at 12:51 PM on November 4, 2004

Isn't this all Minor Threat's fault?not to mentionDon't tell Ian MacKaye I said this. He'll throw me out of the show.
posted by mikrophon at 12:54 PM on November 4, 2004

jonmc i was making an oversimplified statement to explain why straight-edge initially took hold. i wouldn't dare engage you in a "what is punk?" discussion because we might both die of boredom.
posted by glenwood at 12:55 PM on November 4, 2004

I remember tripping over these goofs all the time at City Gardens in Trenton in the late 80's. Harmless mostly, but self-righteous as all get-out. I was always secretly pleased seeing one fall off the wagon.
posted by jalexei at 12:56 PM on November 4, 2004

Right, putzface_dickman: SXE. I remember now. I agree with most: they were a little annoying, as around here they acted like skinheads, but morally superior skinheads. WTH?, you know?
posted by Shane at 12:58 PM on November 4, 2004

jonmc i was making an oversimplified statement to explain why straight-edge initially took hold. i wouldn't dare engage you in a "what is punk?" discussion because we might both die of boredom.

Don't sweat it. And you'd probably win that discussion, since even though I like punk music, too many things disqualify me from being a full fledged member of the club.

But as someone who engages in recreational contrarianism on occasion I can certainly appreciate the perverse aspects of being a straight edge.
posted by jonmc at 1:01 PM on November 4, 2004



Ah, the good old days.

*points finger and pumps fists*
posted by xmutex at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2004

Yes! Good site. Glad to see that Crucial Youth was mentioned as well, any band that can make a rocking song about making sure that you brush your teeth three times a day and the four basic food groups is cool in my book.
posted by adampsyche at 1:10 PM on November 4, 2004

I thought straight-edge was a great idea when I was in late high-school / early college. I was mostly disappointed in my peers who did absolutely nothing on weekends but get drunk. There were no real-life role models that I knew, only the very cool west coast politically active bands. I think it was the right choice then, although now that I'm a hard-drinking, stoner, man-slut, I should figure out some design to cover the very old homemade lopsided X tattoo on my hand.

It was a personal choice and I firmly believe that others should do whatever they want, but it's weird how this (just like like being veg), is usually interpreted as shoving your morals in someone's face even if you never mention it.
posted by milovoo at 1:13 PM on November 4, 2004

that's why i want to hear the soft pink truth album so much, jonmc. and even though i though minor threat were good, i listened more intently to the clash.
posted by grimley at 1:14 PM on November 4, 2004

OK, so I guess their kids will be really out of control. Watch for the pull back.
posted by NewBornHippy at 1:22 PM on November 4, 2004

> *points finger and pumps fists*

Hmm, I find that slightly unorthodox. Are your nails clean?
posted by NewBornHippy at 1:24 PM on November 4, 2004

now that I'm a hard-drinking, stoner, man-slut, I should figure out some design to cover the very old homemade lopsided X tattoo on my hand.

Just tell the ladies it stands fo "X-rated Looove, baby..."
posted by jonmc at 1:31 PM on November 4, 2004

I knew several straight edge kids that went on to become total drunks and stoners. Kind of embarrassing drinking a 40 while sporting X tattoos on both hands. Dorks.
posted by photoslob at 1:36 PM on November 4, 2004

I knew several straight edge kids that went on to become total drunks and stoners. Kind of embarrassing drinking a 40 while sporting X tattoos on both hands. Dorks.

Yeah, how dare they have a misspent youth! (or adult-hood or whatever)
posted by milovoo at 1:39 PM on November 4, 2004

My Grad supervisor wrote his Phd dissertation on Straight Edge. He got to interview Ian. Fuckin eh!

I used to play bass in a sXe band back in the early 90's. We were awesome. Had a song about the immorality of mosh pits. Ha!

I still live a clean life (mostly), but I got turned off of the whole scene when it started getting taken over by xtians.
posted by Quartermass at 1:53 PM on November 4, 2004

sometimes, the edge is so straight... you bleed.
posted by lotsofno at 1:59 PM on November 4, 2004

We were just tired of getting tarred with the Sid Vicious/junkie/Quincy punks brush, is all.

A lot of us felt like we needed to make some overt statement that we were other and smarter and more engaged than that. Some of us mistook the shell for the substance. It happens.

I'll always be grateful for what Ian and and Kevin (and Dave Smalley and Henry Rollins and...) gave me in those days. It was something like an Erector Set armature around which I could build a real spine. I bet some of you know what I'm talking about.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2004 [1 favorite]

Oh, but, yeah, the later wave that started with Youth of Today always struck me as intolerant boors - essentially, white boys from the high school lacrosse team with a nasty, unearned faux-countercultural chip on their shoulder.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:18 PM on November 4, 2004

white boys from the high school lacrosse team with a nasty, unearned faux-countercultural chip on their shoulder.

yup, I think they thought it meant x-treme! or was just a fashion thing.
posted by milovoo at 2:20 PM on November 4, 2004

i was straight edge for a few years...those guys are nuts
posted by bob sarabia at 2:21 PM on November 4, 2004

I only knew a few true sXe'rs growing up in the *cough* OC. (Orange Curtain blahblahblah please kill me.) These folks were pretty cool, they were generally Food Not Bombs members, generally very nice and civil and straight-headed, and always had your back if you were straight and cool with them, regardless of whether or not there was a Mickey's widemouth in your hand.

The rest replaced drugs/drink/sex with adrenaline-fueled violence, and were never straightedge, no matter how many tattoos they got, or how many beer-chugging fratboys or spliff smoking rastas they beat up. (The tattoo thing is interesting, too. Endorphins, anyone?)

I long and pray for the days when we can collectively realize that almost everything a self-conscious human does is motivated by "chemicals" and "drugs", be it "drugs" internally created by experience, drug effects of foods and spices, or external chemicals ingested for effect.

That being said - considering the last few days - I'm totally longing for a nice, friendly slamdance and some loud and righteously angry music to bounce around to.
posted by loquacious at 2:30 PM on November 4, 2004

There was a straight edge band called the Asexuals, out of Edmonton, I think, maybe, around 1983, that I enjoyed immensely. I was about as far from straight edge as you could get, myself. Didn't stop me from rocking out.

Since then, meh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:33 PM on November 4, 2004

Stav, do me a favor and send me an email address for you that works.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:42 PM on November 4, 2004

Check out "American Hardcore" put out by Feral House Press. It's a anecdotal account of the scene from a dyed in the wool scenester covering all over the country. Says the usual "hardcore died after 86" blah blah, but is jammed with interviews with the (mostly) guys who lived it: Chuck Biscuits, Mike Ness, Al Barile, Roger Miret, Vinny Stigma, Raybeez, and so forth.

A big theme of the authors account is how the scene became overrun with the people who were just as narrowminded as the people they disliked. They railed against guys like Mike Watt who wanted to artistically evolve above the three chord cliche or those who had long hair and listened to metal.
posted by dr_dank at 2:44 PM on November 4, 2004

There never were a lot of straight edges in Edmonton. The only one I knew eventually became addicted to heroin. (How appropriate the nickname we'd given him, Spike, seemed then.) I think the Asexuals were from Montreal, maybe?

The Edmonton scene in 83, around when I started going to shows, seemed to me to be a three-headed monster, with social bands like Down Syndrome, cowpunk like Jerry Jerry and kd lang, and then bands with a sense of humour, like SNFU and Entirely Distorted.
posted by alex_reno at 2:57 PM on November 4, 2004

alex, they were. funny interview, if a little hard to read.
posted by grimley at 3:03 PM on November 4, 2004

A discussion of straight edge in a community filled with people who live in the Bay Area and no mention of the Gilman Street Project???
We had a transfer student in high school steeped in the DC scene who explained to the bunch of dorks I hung out with that our (while somewhat involuntary) straight edge ways actually made us super punk rock cool. Hard not to embrace that. I was never going to get behind the veg/no sex part of the dogma - but seeing Fugazi at Gilman street at 15 or 16 ruled my world. I believe somewhere I still have my black swatch watch with the big black X on the face.
We all pretty quickly grew out of the need to belong to a scene and all ended up fairly "normal".
posted by Wolfie at 3:13 PM on November 4, 2004

posted by roboto at 3:22 PM on November 4, 2004

I'd like to give a shout out to Kevin Seconds, from back in the day.

Seven Seconds was the politest and friendliest of a huge mass of polite and friendly bands me and my scene put up dring the first HC wave in the mid-80's. Some of those bands were by no means strauight edge (apparently, Don Bolles shot up in my dorm bathroom). DRI, beleive it or not, was another friendly batch.

Ah, the open hearted sprit of the day... It's been observed that the next four years will prompt a flowering of the art of resistance. Have fun kids, and take a big bite of the fruit. It will never be sweeter.
posted by mwhybark at 3:29 PM on November 4, 2004

While we're giving shoutouts, where's Mike Dean? I always thought he was a good egg, when I met him during his and my overlapping transits of the West Philly squat scene.

I once had a Tibetan skull bead that looked just like him.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:33 PM on November 4, 2004

Not that he ever represented himself as straightedge.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:36 PM on November 4, 2004

mike dean is still hangin around raleigh. he was on that probot thing with dave grohl.

He's also still doing C.O.C. as far as I know. Not at all sure what that has to do with SXE though.
posted by glenwood at 3:43 PM on November 4, 2004

Not much at all. I just missed him, is all.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:47 PM on November 4, 2004

Apparently I need schooled on hardcore Canada. I figured to hear from some southern calafornia hardcore vets, new york, dc, richmond, boston, no cares, seatle and the rest that have shown up - Shane & I represent dystopian ohio- but you canadians surprise me. What's the backstory?
posted by putzface_dickman at 3:59 PM on November 4, 2004

Toronto as I remember it was centered around the Kensington Market area and the Bunch of Fucking Goofs. Montreal had Dayglo Abortions and Vancouver was DOA. There were a bunch of others but the site mentioned above is a great resource for this stuff. I was more of an industrial kid back then, and was into these guys a little less intensely.
posted by grimley at 4:14 PM on November 4, 2004

Now I'm worried that that didn't come out right. I expected California and NYC to have a majority or repondents to the thread, but it's turned out that Canadian (yes I know you're not monolithic) cities outnumber all.
posted by putzface_dickman at 4:30 PM on November 4, 2004

they really don't belong in this thread though, they were much more decadent and self-destructive than the sXe kids and their bands. Here a good site on BFG and Fort Goof - which was as intimidating a place as any for a 14 year-old kid.
posted by grimley at 4:36 PM on November 4, 2004

DOA wasn't straight edge, though, grimley. Just intensely political. I drank beer -- a lot of beer -- with those guys a few times, back in the day.

Had DOA songs from Bloodied But Unbowed running through my head and playlist for the last couple of days.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:38 PM on November 4, 2004

yeah stav. see above. this whole straightedge thing wasn't apparent to me until I moved to Vancouver for a few years and was friends with a guy from the DC area.
posted by grimley at 4:41 PM on November 4, 2004

alex_reno I think you're right - the Asexuals were from Montreal. And any discussion about Canuck hardcore from the olden days is not complete without the incomparable NoMeansNo. Also nice guys, the Wright brothers, but not straightedge, either.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:43 PM on November 4, 2004

and who can forget the Hanson Brothers.
posted by grimley at 4:44 PM on November 4, 2004

...who were a side-project (known in Vancouver lingo, perhaps elsewhere too, as a 'fuck-band') of the Wright Bros from NoMeansNo.

The greatest fuck-bands in Vancouver history were Jeff! and Pork and Punishment. If anyone out there knows of what I speak, I love you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:56 PM on November 4, 2004

I never expected to reminisce about hardcore here. The last hardcore show I went to was at the Cleveland Agora with Bad Religion, Green Day (before Dookie), Seaweed, and another one I can't remember. Went with the girl who is now my wife. Her hardcore CD collection was top drawer for a hottie with no tats or shit in her face. The next year we lived down the street from Neil House, a campus house that would clear out the living room to host hardcore shows. We were too high and missed farside.
posted by putzface_dickman at 4:58 PM on November 4, 2004

I never expected to reminisce about hardcore here.

It's funny, I hadn't thought about it in years, but this thread had me googling playlists from City Gardens (closed in '98, now a dance club).

For a suburban NJ high school kid weaned mainly on classic rock (with a bit of R.E.M. and the Police thrown in), getting dragged there by a punk friend of mine was so utterly mind blowing. All those amazing shows; Fugazi, Dag Nasty, Jane's Addiction a few months after Nothing's Shocking came out (a swirling near-riot as Perry taunted the house security), the Ramones, 7 Seconds, Sonic Youth, the Dickies, and on and on. I rarely strayed more than a few feet from the walls, but just to watch and absord the energy of the pit... Damn.

I feel old and decrepit.
posted by jalexei at 6:25 PM on November 4, 2004

I chuckled recently at seeing that Joey was on tour behind his book. But damn, War on 45 is, was, and ever shall be an amazing record. I still can't believe I missed a chance to see the Avengers a few weeks ago due to cluelessness.

jal, eh? wozzat? my ears are clogged with wax and ear hair, and I'm too palsied to pick it out.
posted by mwhybark at 6:59 PM on November 4, 2004

ah. dayglo abortions ruled. canadia has produced lots of great punk rock. snfu, nomeansno, bryan adams...

arg! fuck! kill!
posted by glenwood at 7:19 PM on November 4, 2004

So how did you get from punk rock to evolutionary biology?
posted by homunculus at 7:57 PM on November 4, 2004

playlists from City Gardens

Holy crap, Shitty Garbage. The worst venue ever!

Well, except for all those overpriced Rock Hotel shows. And the Rutgers Camden matinees. And Club Pizzazz, in Philadelphia's "Greater" Northeast. Jesus, you're taking me back.

Oh, for a second I thought that ^ was a Milo Aukerman link.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:47 PM on November 4, 2004


I feel old too, I was at all those Shitty Gardens shows you mentioned. I remember my first show there was GBH and 7 Seconds in '85. I was dumb enough to stand right where the pit was when 7 Seconds opened with Regress No Way. It felt like I was in a whirlpool with fists. Funny thing was back then people actually picked you up when you fell down. Ah, the memories
posted by remo at 7:52 AM on November 5, 2004

playlists from City Gardens

Holy crap, Shitty Garbage. The worst venue ever!

Actually the worst venue was the ABE music hall near the airport in allentown-bethlehem. Remember those skinheads who killed their parents in PA, they used to go there - and they were the mellow ones. City Gardens was plush compared to that. I saw 7 seconds there too, maybe same time as you there jalexei. I can still remember good shows from the meatmen, nirvana, gwar, fugazi, meat beat manifesto, skinny puppy / ministry / pigface / silverfish and on a less punk note dee-lite and lush. Ahh, so many good memories.
posted by milovoo at 8:06 AM on November 5, 2004

I understand that every scene or movement has it's poster-boys, for better or worse, and that those people in the forefront often colour the perception of those movements - but come on. I think it's fair that some of us are tired of having to deal with the whole 'punk rock puritans' reference.

I was straightedge all through highschool, during the nineties, when straightedge and hardcore had a serious and I would say critical resurgence.. Essentially, I still am, albeit much more subtly. (As in: "No thanks" vs. "Edge 4 Life!!!") From my, southern Ontario (London) perspective, that movement meant a lot to me. If nothing else, I think that it contributed to my desire for critical assessment of my own life-choices. I never held sexual abstinence as a part of the "Edge", nor was I ever involved in any Syracuse-style crew activity. That stuff never interested me, or most of my friends. In our minds, ours was a quiet form of protest, or reaction to a social system that we didn't see any real use for. It had for me, as much to do with an awareness of what we put into ourselves as it did with a desire to consciously not (directly) support some of the largest, profit-making lifestyle-selling corporations: Alcohol and Tobacco companies.

It also was for me, as has been mentioned here before, a form of rebellion. But not necessarily against our parents, so much as against our peers. I know that sounds petty, venomous, and privileged, but that's what we needed. Middle-class is an easy life, but it's a tough thing to come to terms with when you're a bored kid in the suburbs, and you don't feel like you or your peers deserve anything that you have. We felt like we needed to do something different, something to separate ourselves from the pack, in a positive way. We saw the majority of the kids our age attempting to 'rebel' through the same methods that their parents had used. And what we wanted was to feel like we were truly breaking a pattern of sorts. It wasn't self-righteous, or it wasn't meant to be. (Although, yes, as with any movement/scene, there is always factions [cough. XearthcrisisX. cough.) and groups that can change the direction of something faster than you can control.

At the end of the day, as with any movement, it's not something that I can wholeheartedly put my support behind in all of it's incarnations. But what movement is?
Whether it was ridiculous or not, it was a crucial part of what shaped me. Like feminism, I saw the straightedge movement as a starting point - or a set of tools which I could pick up, and then use to critically assess and respond to the rest of the world, as I encountered it. [/pretense]
posted by paultron at 10:10 AM on November 8, 2004 [3 favorites]

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